In my last “Photo Talk” I discussed the use of natural sunlight and how to best take advantage of it. Outdoor photography and the sun as my light source will always be my preference but that doesn’t always fit into a person’s schedule. That leads us to the topic of using a flash. In some situations you have a choice between using a flash or not. Both these photos were taken at an indoor location that also had natural light coming in from the windows and doors. My camera automatically chose to activate it’s flash when it calculated the amount of light that was available. This is the result:
It certainly lit up my subject and highlighted the details! It also gave a funky cast to the eyes and left some hard, black shadows. By changing my settings to manual I was able to take another shot without using the flash (many point & shoot cameras have a “available light” setting on them as well). Here is a second version of the same goat:
This image still shows some details, but not as harshly, and the shadows are much softer. The natural backlighting highlights her head/face. I prefer this image over the first one. Which would you choose? To improve this I could have adjusted my camera to include some “fill flash” and it would have opened up the details of her eyes and face more than they are in this image. Fill flash (which is basically a reduced amount of flash) is an awesome tool for picking up highlights and details in natural light without the very evident “flashy” look of a full flash photo. Check your camera and/or flash to see if you have such a setting, I guarantee you will like the results!
Another tool you can use in the flash vs. no flash battle is a tripod. Now I will be the first to tell you that my tripod is not my best friend (despite them telling us that repeatedly in photography class). It’s heavy, it’s awkward, and it’s just one more piece of equipment to mess with. That being said there are times I am more than happy to employ it! If you decide that you don’t want to use flash, yet there isn’t much available light, then the tripod can be your solution. Shooting in low light situations makes any movement of your camera translate into an out-of-focus photo (I’m sure you’ve heard the term “camera shake” and seen the results of photos taken without enough light). Although it can make for some interestingly creative photos, most of the time we want to see crisp details in the images that we are capturing. Most cameras will even warn you in those situations with a symbol of some kind indicating that you don’t have enough light to take a clear photo holding your camera by hand. Here are two shots from a recent photo shoot, the first using flash and the second one with a tripod & natural light.
What a difference! Both have their advantages and disadvantages so really sometimes this comes down to personal taste and what story/message you are trying to convey. Which of these two images do you prefer? Why? I decided to leave the warm coloring in the second image but you could change the white balance and reshoot (or color correct it afterwards) to make the whites pure white if you decided to. Perhaps a talk about white balance and color correction is in the near future…check back often!
There are many other aspects, thoughts and tips on using flash in your photos, but those are for another day! Until then, happy shooting!
Focused & ready,